Foreign languages to be taught at school from age seven

Foreign languages to be taught at school from age seven

guardian.co.uk |by Jeevan Vasagar on June 10, 2012

  • Jeevan Vasagar, education editor
  • guardian.co.uk, Sunday 10 June 2012 12.25 EDT
primary school pupils

Learning a foreign language could soon become compulsory for primary school pupils from the age of seven under government reforms Photograph: Don Mcphee for the Guardian

All children are to be taught a foreign language – which could include Mandarin, Latin or Greek – from the age of seven under reforms to the national curriculum being unveiled by the education secretary, Michael Gove.

In other reforms, children will be encouraged to learn science by studying nature, and schools will be expected to place less emphasis on teaching scientific method.

The introduction of compulsory language teaching in primary schoolsis intended to reverse the dramatic decline in takeup at GCSE. Pupils will need to be able to speak in sentences, with the appropriate pronunciation, and express simple ideas clearly in another language.

They will be expected to develop an understanding of the basic grammar of the language, and be acquainted with songs and poetry. Ministers say that teaching should focus on making “substantial progress” in one language.

The science curriculum is expected to emphasise using the natural habitat around schools – learning biology by studying the growth and development of trees, for example.

There will be less of a focus on doing experiments. Instead, children will be taught to observe their surroundings and learn how scientists have classified the natural world. One source with knowledge of the curriculum review said: “The idea of science being based around a careful observation of the world is a very important place to begin. The science curriculum in Japan has at its core the love of nature. In the past we put too much emphasis on how scientists found stuff out, not enough on what they have found out.”

The curriculum reforms will result in more demanding lessons, and represent a return to the basics of each subject. In maths, the teaching of statistics at primary school will be slimmed down to make way for more mental arithmetic.

Children will be expected to do multiplication and division with large numbers without the use of pen and paper. Pupils in the final year of primary school will be introduced to algebra.

The new programmes of study, which are being published for consultation this week, are to be introduced in schools in September 2014. They follow a report on the future framework of the national curriculum in England drawn up by an expert panel chaired by Tim Oates, director of research at Cambridge Assessment, an exam board. One of the most far-reaching proposals is a plan to scrap the levels that children are awarded in Sats tests at the end of primary school. The percentage of pupils reaching level 4 is used to determine whether a primary school is failing. It is not clear what will replace Sats levels. Scrapping them may pave the way for schools to provide more specific details of pupils’ progress in subjects.

In English, the curriculum will emphasise the importance of grammar. For the first time, the government will set a list of words that all children must learn how to spell. These will include bruise, destroy, ridiculous and tyrant.

Pupils will be expected to learn poems by heart and recite them in public. They will also be taught how to debate.

The new English curriculum will say that by the end of year 4, children should be listening to and discussing a wide range of fiction and nonfiction. There is also greater stress on learning to read through phonics.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “There is no doubt these programmes are more demanding. It is appropriate to express high expectations in a statement of curriculum aims, but schools will need time and support to develop their teaching to reach those aims.”

The shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg, said the government was “absolutely right” to make the learning of foreignlanguages compulsory from the age of seven.

On BBC1’s Sunday Politics programme, he urged ministers to go further. “Children will get a love of learning languages if they get the chance to learn them younger. The government’s talking about seven. I would encourage schools to start teaching languages younger than seven,” he said.

Twigg said he was opposed to the legislation that created free schools, but a future Labour government would not close down“excellent schools”. He said: “I have a different concern about free schools … At the moment there is a serious shortage of primary school places in many parts of the country and yet the government’s spending priority on schools’ capital is free schools.”

The number of primary schools teaching languages has been increasing in response to a target set by the previous government., though school inspectors say headteachers’ monitoring of language provision can be weak. This is often because primary heads feel they lack competence to judge language provision, Ofsted says. Languages have collapsed at GCSE since they were made optional at the age of 14. In 2010, just 43% of GCSE candidates were entered for a language, down from 75% in 2002.

All Children Should Learn Foreign Languages, Say Peers

All children should learn foreign languages, say peers

BBC |March 22, 2012

By Angela Harrison Education correspondent, BBC News
All children should learn a foreign language at primary and secondary school, a House of Lords committee has said.The UK’s attitude to languages has prevented its students from studying in Europe, according to the House of Lords’ EU committee.

It says the UK has been popular with EU students keen to improve their English, but it is now facing competition.

Education Secretary Michael Gove also favours language learning from five.

A new league table measure for England is expected to lead to more teenagers studying languages.

Known as the English Baccalaureate, it is given to pupils who get good GCSEs in five key subjects including a language.

Languages are not compulsory in English and Welsh secondary schools beyond the age of 14, although a review of the curriculum is under way in England.

Tougher competition

The Lords’ committee says too few British students are taking part in schemes designed to encourage movement among students in the EU and blames “monoglot” (speaking just one language) attitudes.

Students in France, Germany and Spain were three times as likely as those in Britain to take part in an EU programme called Erasmus, where students can study or work abroad as part of their degree, the committee said.

Its inquiry follows a report from the European Commission last September which said that European universities had“under-exploited potential” to contribute to Europe’s prosperity and society.

The Lords call on the EU to allocate more funds to research and education to help in the region’s long-term economic recovery.

Committee chairman Baroness Young of Hornsey said: “The government must place higher education at the heart of their growth agenda in order to maintain and contribute to the economic and social wealth of the UK and Europe as a whole.

“In the immediate few months, this will require the government to negotiate ambitiously to allocate a greater proportion of the long-term EU budget to research, innovation and education.”

The committee reject a call from the European Commission to bring in a new ranking system for universities.

Overseas students

And they call on the government to “remain vigilant” about attracting students from overseas, particularly following the increase in tuition fees.

From the autumn, fees at England’s universities will be allowed to rise up to a maximum of £9,000 a year, although they are covered by student loans which do not have to be paid back until graduates are earning £21,000 a year.

Fees are also rising in other parts of the UK, although students from Northern Ireland who stay there to study will not be affected and those from Wales will be subsidised wherever they study in the UK. Students in Scotland will continue to pay no fees.

The UK is facing tougher competition for students from the EU and further afield the report says, particularly as some universities in mainland Europe are teaching courses in English and have lower fees.

EU students who go to Scottish universities do not have to pay fees.

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